Big, bold and beautiful

Dorothy Dobbie  Bold Ideas
Dorothy Dobbie
Bold Ideas

Recently, the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce proposed a two-block beautification plan to screen backyards along Route 90. Instead of embracing the long-needed idea, the local media and residents went out of their way to pan it.

That’s what’s wrong with our town these days. We’ve lost our ability to see the big picture and to make things work instead of finding objections to every plan.

Let’s take hold of this bold initiative by the Chamber and overcome some of those objections.

First, a couple of residents have worried that the proposed fence would isolate their back alley, making it a haven for criminals. That issue is readily solved by making the back alley an asset for residents, with attractive lighting and plantations of flowering shrubs and vines facing the backyards, as well as on the freeway side of the fence. This could even improve property values, not to mention screening some of the noise from the busy freeway.

City Council is worried about the estimated $7-million cost, which is really not that much in the context of the payback in pride and forward thinking by citizens and investors.

They need to look at the forest and not limit their thinking to the trees. The fact is, the airport route is an eyesore from start to finish and the only thing wrong with the Chamber’s plan is its limited scope.

We need a comprehensive approach that would include:

  • Development of a complete route beautification plan.
  • Creation of a designated airport route.
  • Education of taxi drivers to follow the designated route.
  • Priority expenditure to clean up and repair the route by city streets and parks departments.
  • Buy in (or by-laws) to encourage local businesses to clean up and follow the plan.

This is not only doable, it’s vitally necessary for our city’s pride and our future prosperity.

Dorothy Dobbie is the publisher at Pegasus Publications Inc.

Driving home our pride in Winnipeg

Dave Angus President and CEO of  the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce
Dave Angus
President and CEO of
the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce

One-tenth of a second … that’s all it takes to make a first impression. Even when it comes to cities, first impressions count.

That’s why, ever since Leonard Asper spoke out 10 years ago about how visually challenging the route is from the airport to downtown, the Chamber has been looking at ways to enhance a visitor’s first experience in our city as they head down Route 90, notably between St. Matthews and Ness avenues.

A tired-looking chain-link fence running beside an alley lined by overhead wires just doesn’t send a message that Winnipeg is a vibrant, exciting place to be.

And unfortunately, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

Artist's conceptual sketch of the proposed Route 90 renewal.
Artist’s conceptual sketch of the proposed Route 90 renewal.

Initially, the Chamber brought together people from the neighbourhood, architects, engineers, landscapers and experts from Manitoba Hydro. We came up with a plan for what has been referred to as Chamber Way – bury the overhead wires and plant elm trees to provide a natural green backdrop, which would showcase a colourful meandering wall of murals to celebrate our rich heritage and diverse culture.

But the plan was nixed over safety concerns because of high speeds, snow clearing, plants that couldn’t handle road salt, unstable underground sewer infrastructure and cost – which skyrocketed into the multi-millions.

We started over. And again, we failed to make headway. It became clear we needed to work closely with the City’s Public Works Department to meet all of the stringent requirements, especially with respect to fencing.

With support from the mayor and Coun. Dan Vandal, the City’s administration was asked to come back with a plan to move forward. On Nov. 19, 2013, an administrative report was presented to the Standing Policy Committee on Infrastructure Renewal and Public Works, which suggested a polyethylene fence similar to Chief Peguis Trail would be feasible.

The cost for the fencing is high, $7 million, but we’re prepared to approach all three levels of government and the local business community to support the project. The fencing would be the first of four phases.

It’s critical that we consult with residents and businesses, but first we need something to consult on.

We’re proposing that after the issue of fencing is resolved, we look into landscaping – some greenery is a must, but there are limited options because of the impact of road salt.

The next phase would be lighting. Manitoba Hydro has identified options for decorative light standards that could accommodate banners to promote special events and our cultural and historical attractions.

And the final phase would be the banner program itself and public art.

It’s about showcasing who we are and what we’re doing, whether it’s playing host to the Junos, the Grey Cup, Centralllia or promoting our talent – the WSO, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, or the Winnipeg Jets.

Now is not the time to settle for being “like everyone else”. We must lead the pack and continue to encourage and inspire. Let’s be BOLD.

There is a renewed sense of pride in our community due to the many great projects that have elevated Winnipeg in the eyes of the world, from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

As one of the city’s key “image routes”, Route 90 must drive home the message that we’re proud of our city. It must not serve as a roadblock.

Dave Angus is president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.

Learning the trade secrets

Apprenticeship has benefits for employers and employees alike.

In today’s labour market, employers need skilled tradespeople. The current high demand for skilled workers means plenty of opportunities to pursue a trade as a viable, rewarding career pathway. Apprenticeship is a way to train in one of over 50 different skilled trades and “earn while you learn”.

Under the apprenticeship model, a journeyperson (someone who is fully certified in a particular trade) provides practical, on-the-job training to an individual who wants to earn a Certificate of Qualification in a skilled trade.

The apprenticeship system is the responsibility of Apprenticeship Manitoba, a branch of the provincial government that oversees the delivery of accredited, workplace-based training along with technical learning in a classroom setting. Currently, 10,000 apprentices working in over 55 trades are registered with Apprenticeship Manitoba.

Jennifer Nguyen speaks about her experience as a truck and transport mechanic apprentice.
Jennifer Nguyen speaks about her experience as a truck and transport mechanic apprentice.

Lasting career
Hiring an apprentice not only benefits the individual being trained, but also the provincial economy as a whole. Jennifer Nguyen, a truck and transport mechanic apprentice, believes the apprenticeship system directly improves the lives of people who want to increase the job opportunities available to them and build lasting careers.

“The apprenticeship system affects all Manitobans in countless positive ways,” says Nguyen. “It means we can walk into an auto body shop and trust that our vehicles will be fixed properly, the roads that we drive those vehicles on will be safe and take us where we need to go, and the buildings and homes those roads take us to will be secure and well built.”

Companies that hire apprentices also benefit by ensuring that their labour needs are met.

“On the job, I’ve seen people who have years of experience going into retirement, only to be replaced by someone who has no experience at all,” says Nguyen. “By hiring apprentices on an ongoing basis, employers can fill those gaps so that there are more skilled workers on staff, and more opportunities for new staff to be trained.”

Truck and transport mechanic
Nguyen is enrolled in the four-year truck and transport mechanic program. Truck and transport mechanics are certified to maintain, service, repair and modify transport trucks and their components. They also service emergency vehicles, farm and gravel trucks, public transport and school buses, public utility vehicles, semi-trailer trucks and truck tractors.

An apprentice training to be a certified truck and transport mechanic learns to:

  • Use sophisticated diagnostic equipment and techniques to service electrical or electronic system faults and perform component replacements.
  • Service basic fuel and fuel injection systems, electrical and suspension systems, air conditioning and emission controls.
  • Service and repair engines, braking systems, air brakes, steering components, drive lines and differentials.
  • Disassemble, align, fit and machine parts with hand or power tools.
  • Assemble, install, repair and maintain equipment including, hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics, heating and refrigeration units.
  • Rebuild, adjust and service a variety of components such as engine pistons and connecting rods, cylinders, cylinder head valves, camshafts, crankshafts and time gears.
  • Repair and replace frames, axles, hubs, tires and wheels and coupling units.
  • Calibrate electrical test equipment.

Training in this trade involves eight weeks of in-school training in each of the first two years, six weeks of training in the third year and four in the final year.

The apprentice spends the rest of the time learning the trade under the guidance of a journeyperson in a workplace setting. This allows the apprentice to earn a good wage while acquiring skills that will last a lifetime and open the door to a future of continued advancement.

For more information about trades training opportunities, contact Apprenticeship Manitoba toll free at 1-877-978-7233, email apprenticeship@gov.mb.ca, or visit our website at manitoba.ca/tradecareers.

The extraordinary invention centre

Composites Innovation Centre is developing products to drive western Canadian businesses to the next level.

The bio composite motorbike designed by CIC.
The bio composite motorbike designed by CIC.

By Jenny Ford

In the foyer of Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) are a motorbike and an electric car. Not too far off sit a snowboard and, at the back of the building, an eco-friendly gazebo. They’re the tip of the iceberg of the innovative projects CIC has worked on over the last decade, projects that have helped propel western Canadian businesses forward.

“People work here because it’s diverse work, it’s interesting work, it’s exciting work. You’re developing new products, but you also want to make a difference in the community. Working here it may be more obvious how you can do that,” says Mike Hudek, manager of business development and operations at the Winnipeg centre.

A CIC employee works in the prototype facility.
A CIC employee works in the prototype facility.

CIC, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on Oct. 23, is a not-for-profit organization funded by both industry and government. It works with companies and government in all aspects of developing composite products, which in turn helps businesses grow, develop and create more jobs.

CIC’s employees are inventors of sorts, designing, testing and working with businesses to develop and prototype new composite products.

Composites, you say?

Composite materials are strong, lightweight materials developed in a lab that use different kinds of fibres bonded together chemically. The material is an increasingly important technology in manufacturing, says Hudek.

The goal of these products is to be more cost effective, environmentally friendly and also offer enhanced performance. Better-designed, lightweight bus doors will save fuel costs, for instance.

“It’s a type of material and it’s a type of product where there really is increasing demand because of the pressures of fuel prices and because people want better looking products,” he says.

Composite technologies can be anything from designing a bus panel to creating prototypes for a new curling broom. CIC helps companies develop, test and commercialize composite technologies for aerospace, ground transportation, biomaterials, civil infrastructure and other industries.

The use of composites is growing and CIC looks to support companies to take advantage of this growth, says Hudek, which will eventually create more jobs in these industries. The green revolution has also sparked an interest in bio composite materials, made from natural fibres.

“Our companies are trying to become more competitive with their products and part of that is the look of the product and composites do facilitate that quite a bit,” he says.

However, Hudek notes CIC isn’t there to compete with existing companies, but to help with the development process.

“We provide development around the technology to see if that technology makes sense,” he says. “We’re supporting at the tactical level, company by company, but we’re also involved in larger collaborative projects to support the industry at a strategic planning level as a province.”

Invention centre
The centre is equipped with classrooms, a prototype facility, as well as a lab to test materials. Although not accredited, the lab still prepares specimens of composite materials for testing and it evaluates reports from accredited labs.

CIC also examines composites in order to test and adjust how much of each material should be used.

Over the years, the centre has been involved in a multitude of projects. Recently, they helped design a prototype for a new curling broom for a Winnipeg company. The broom has a bent handle, making it easier to hold and maneuver, Hudek describes.

Another project is the green gazebo made with a hemp composite roof and a wooden frame. A local manufacturer is currently selling the gazebo under the name “the ultimate gazebo”. The motorbike and electric car are other examples of products developed by the centre using green bio composite materials.

CIC is also heavily involved in the transportation sector, helping Winnipeg companies, such as Motor Coach Industries, make parts for their buses from composites.

Careers and composites
On top of this, CIC also helps with training. The centre works with students from the University of Manitoba and Red River College, as well as people in the industry to better educate them about the use of composites.

“We orient companies with what are the benefits, what are the challenges. We help them if they are interested in exploring using composites in their products, what makes sense and what doesn’t and really trying to create connections between them and the existing fabricators in the region,” Hudek says.

There are currently 27 employees at CIC with two to four summer students and usually a few co-op students each year. Many employees, especially for aerospace projects, work offsite directly with businesses to help develop their products and composite capabilities. By helping others, employees are also creating future jobs at these companies.

“Where else can you work towards making your future job? You’re growing the industry you’re working in. You’re just making more opportunity for yourself and others,” Hudek says.

The core employees at CIC are engineers, mainly mechanical engineers, says Maureen Williamson, manager of finance and administration at CIC. There are also a lot of employees in the design field.

“Typically, they’re people that have had exposure to composites that are familiar and that have had some training or some experience with composites,” she says.

Employees’ education backgrounds are generally University of Manitoba for engineering or Red River College on the design side, she notes. The company grows a few people each year.

“We’re extremely fortunate here because we get innovative and creative talented minds,” she says, “that’s one of the things our employees really like. Every day is different and every day brings a new project.”